Fishbone Live In Saskatoon, Canada

By Andrew Depedro, Ottawa Corespondent
Thursday, April 25, 2002 @ 4:45 PM

Fishbone, D.O.A. and Crowned K

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Four months and then some is a looooong time to go without a concert in town and Jello Biafra's spoken word performance at the Place Riel theater this January doesn't count since he didn't sing a single Dead Kennedys song. So, Fishbone, D.O.A. and Crowned King traversing the nation as part of the headliners' "Fuck Racism" North American tour will suffice for the first concert of the new year in Saskatoon. And seeing as 2002 is already a quarter old, that's saying something...

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Anyway, the concert took place at the Odeon nightclub on a Tuesday evening and I was supposed to meet up with a few friends at the club (who never showed up). Despite having an exam to sit on Thursday as well as two assignments to finish up, I arrived early, KNAC stickers in hand having not been used since last summer, and waited for the bands to set up for at least a good hour or so while making sarcastic comments to myself about the programmed music being played. Then the opening band took the stage and the sarcastic comments to myself became justified...

The first band to hit the stage (or, rather, kinda shit it up) was Vancouver ska band Crowned King. Yes, that would be a band that's about a good six or seven years too late in jumping on the whole Orange County ska bandwagon. Just to prove how lame the whole scene's dissipated into, they opened with a cover of Survivor's "Eye Of The Tiger." Suddenly, Poison's cover of "Squeeze Box" sounded way cooler by comparison. Alas, for Crowned King, this was the only really memorable part of their performance, which served as little more as a highlighting of every ska/pop-punk cliché in the book. The lead singer -- a bizarre hybrid between Coby Dick and that man-clit lead singer from The Calling -- even introduced one song called "Life Preserver" as being "about your mom." How very Mark Hoppus of him. When in doubt, cash in on the frat-boy humor in order to get some sort of response from the audience. Fuck, all good it did them as Brad Nowell's pulse had more life than the dance floor during their set that night. I almost felt sorry for the lead singer, seeing as his jumping up and down and trying to get a rise from the audience was kinda entertaining. It was all in vain and he knew this, asking us why Saskatoon's not dancing tonight no less than every time in between every song. Could it be that recycled ‘90s ska sucks a mile of dick? Ska's not cool anymore? No shit. Unworthy of a sticker since KROQ will probably pick them up and put them on heavy rotation anyway within a few years. That is, if they don't break up due to a lack of a major record deal within the next year or so. By then, their name will probably cease to have any real meaning anywhere…

Don't worry. It got better from then on in. It had to. Especially in D.O.A.'s case. They made no secret that they've been around for a good 25 years and then some. I was never a really big fan of the Vancouver punk rock group and could recall only a few songs from them, but my respect for them increased tenfold that night after their performance. Simply put, they bent Crowned King over and made them their bitch. The band -- slimmed down to a trio -- cranked out a barrage of their punk classics such as "General Strike," "Race Riot" and the 100-miles-an-hour-punk-as-fuck "Disco Sucks (and Static-X sucks too -- okay, that bit doesn't exist in the song title, but I still think their "disco is evil" tagline is gay and this is my review anyway, so live with it)". They also cranked out a few new tunes in the form of "I Am Canadian" and "All Across The U.S.A." from their new CD Win The Battle (due out in stores in Canada in about a week or so) and thankfully bypassed their cover of BTO's "Takin' Care Of Business" for the way cooler cover of ZZ Top's "La Grange" that would've made Eddie Spaghetti proud. Given the fact that D.O.A. have been around for nearly three decades, they played with more energy that night than what most of those current hack pop-punk MTV bands like Sum-41 and Jimmy Eat World could even muster live in their own 5 years as a band. Expect a review of the new D.O.A. CD sometime soon as the band has a few KNAC stickers and my mailing address and the new material sounds very promising...

While mingling with D.O.A.'s vocalist and guitarist at the T-shirt booth, headliners Fishbone took to the stage and I missed Angelo Moore's opening Dr. Madd Vibe speech. Seeing as I've erroneously written off this band after 1993 due to numerous line-ups over the remainder of the decade of Gen-X that would've made a brief stint in Public Image Ltd. seem like a lifetime career, I figured that a few minutes wouldn't of made that much of a difference in trying to keep up with them. A good eight or nine years not even knowing whether Fishbone were still a band and recording new material, however, did. Weren't there eight members in that band at one point, or am I thinking of The Pogues (well, I found it funny when I asked Angelo the same question after the show...)?

Anyway, Fishbone were also trimmed down to a five-piece. The guitarist looked like a cross between Steve Vai and DJ Will. The bass player looked like he escaped from the video shoot for "Chop Suey!" and wore an Obi-Wan Kenobi hood. And Angelo still had that 1940's-style zoot suit that was his signature wardrobe and can still do those jumping bits around on stage flawlessly. As for the music... a mixture of rock, thrash, funk, reggae, jam rock, jazz, acid jazz (with that soundwave radio that made all those strange effects like in Zep's "Whole Lotta Love") and ska (and not that embarrassing mess that Crowned King was trying to pass off as ska either earlier) that all gelled together and worked to their advantage. I managed to recognize "Sunless Saturday" some three songs into their set and I was taken back a whole decade just from the solo alone (from 1991's The Reality Of My Surroundings. Yes, there were other albums out that year besides Nevermind and Metallica: The Black Album, everyone). The travel back in time to their ‘80s and some of their ‘90s material (much needed in my case since those were the only other songs I remembered from them that night) also included their infamous cover of Curtis Mayfield's "Freddie's Dead," "Ma And Pa," "Riot," "Let Them Hoes Fight," "Party At Ground Zero" (I never thought this song would ever be played or heard anywhere ever again, and if you need to ask me why that is, then you need the CNN channel way more than I do) and "Swim" as the final encore. Killer shit.

One more point of interest during the whole performance was how Saskatoon's rock crowds have been very indifferent to moshing almost to the point that one wonders if anyone in town still knows how to survive a moshpit. I concur, as I think 75% of the city's rock crowd that haven't defected to Lonestar or Amanda Marshall already may have been exposed to one Red House Painters wannabe band too many and have fallen into one of two categories:

1) The first-time non-country concertgoer who dances as if he or she was at a hoedown and was at the age of 70, or…

2) The very uncoordinated slam-dancer who confuses moshing with wrestling, bumping into people, causing fights that I usually had to stop before they started and generally wishing that he or she was at a Poison The Well concert instead.

I'm only bringing this up as a matter of interest as the moshpit during Fishbone's set was especially yielding these types of concertgoers during "Ma And Pa." Ever see that video from 1989 where Fishbone's playing this concert in this small nightclub with all those strange camera angles and the bouncers and security guards go apeshit on the crowd and beat up everyone? That was almost exactly what had happened in the moshpit that night. All that was missing was the huge security guard wrapping this one guy's legs up and around the metal support bar on the dancefloor just like in the video. Fuck me if that new breed of moshers are starting to make the straight-edge kids look like Default fans nowadays...

Fishbone's website is at Fishbone.net and it may have a preview of whatever new CD they may have out right now. Let me know as well since I haven't a goddamn clue what this band's been up to for the past 9 years...

Angelo/Dr. Madd Vibe's website is at Drmaddvibe.com.

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